BY DAVID MARION
4th Sunday of Easter Acts 13: 14. 43-52 Apocalypse 7:9.14-17 John 10: 27-30 SOME BIBLES HAVE AT the back a map of the Mediterranean area, with the place names as they were in the first days of the church. This is a week for looking at such a map and marvelling at the travels which were undertaken, especially by St Paul. In today's reading from the Acts, Paul moves north from Perga and must have travelled over 300 miles in a semi-circle to Iconium, now Konya.
His message was always the same. God's concern and promise is for everyone. Race and tribe do not matter. That was not a message that pleased those who had once been his friends and they turned against him. The way of turning one group against another do not seem to have changed much over the centuries. They were certainty effective in Antioch long years ago.
Perhaps this week we might spare a thought for Barnabas, one of the quiet men of the story. He first appears oy the scene earlier in the Act. A Jewish landowner from Cyprus, he sold his estate and gave the money to the apostles. He stood by St Paul when he was looked on with suspicion by the others.
In Aramaic his name means "Man of Encouragement". It is the St Pauls of this world who become famous. But we all know the faithful, patient people like Barnabas who are so essential to the life of the Church.
Our second reading takes us back to the world of dreams of prophesy. But the other side of the coin is that to be one of them there has to have been suffering. Mixed images do not matter in the Apocalypse. The Lamb who was sacrificed becomes the Shepherd who leads us all to the living waters. This section must have been chosen as an introduction to St John's words about the Good Shepherd in the Gospel. Again it is important to read the entire chapter. Jesus had been teaching in the Temple precincts in Solomon's portico. There, just outside the Temple, Jesus was asked what looks like a quite reasonable question. "If you are the Messiah, say so plainly."
But it was a question inspired by malice. Once the questioners had their answer ("the Father and I are One") they picked up stones to kill him. We all know the difference between those who ask questions because they really want to know and those who ask them only to confirm their own opinions. It may be comforting, in matters of faith, to think that one has all the answers. But if we are really prepared to "listen to my voice" we have to be open to receive ideas that perhaps we did not expect. t